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Along with weight loss and other related health goals, one of the biggest resolutions that many take on during the new year is quitting smoking, and we at NAMI have found that this is a goal that is made more difficult for those suffering from mental illnesses. Those with anxiety will often turn to nicotine in an effort to help them to calm down and save them from a negative mood, but what they don’t realize is that smoking or otherwise ingesting the chemical can actually make things worse. Anxiety sufferers aren’t the only ones who turn to smoking for some type of comfort or assistance, and those with any type of mental illness will find that smoking will often be more difficult to quit than it may be for those who do not have any type of mental condition.

Quitting smoking is undoubtedly important to your health, and smoking related diseases and conditions are a huge contributing factor to premature death in the United States. Once you quit, you can be freed of the chains that nicotine has on your mental and physical well-being, but getting to that point of a strong enough desire to see it through can be difficult.

First, we must realize that smoking doesn’t help any sort of condition, and what you may have been using as some type of a crutch is actually a hindrance to your state of mental health. To use anxiety conditions as an example, while the immediate effect of smoking may feel like it calms you down, the cycle of smoking can contribute to feelings of greater stress. Once you finish a cigarette, and the nicotine begins to leave the body, withdrawal sets in quickly, and withdrawal from nicotine can cause anxiety symptoms even in those who wouldn’t experience them regularly.

In another example, those with schizophrenia are 3 to 4 times more likely to smoke compared to those without the condition, and the reasons for smoking are much like the reasons cited by those with anxiety conditions. However, in schizophrenia cases, those who smoke are less likely to find success with conventional medical treatments, and the ingestion of nicotine can actually make their condition more difficult to manage.

While these are just a couple of examples, smoking has a negative effect on anyone suffering from a mental illness. Because cigarettes or other tobacco products are often used as, what is believed to be, a means of help by those who are mentally ill, it makes them far more difficult to quit, but quitting is always in a person’s best interest. At NAMI, we know how important it is to cut nicotine out of the equation for those with or without mental illnesses, and we believe this is a goal that is achievable, no matter how difficult, for anyone!


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